Those of you following my alternate adventures on the School of Sourdough website will already know that from June to August this year (2018) I'll be touring the southern half of the country, teaching Bush Baking to anyone who wants to come in about 13 different locations from one side of the country to the other.
The Bush Baking workshops are an extension, or possibly a distillation, of what I've been doing over the past ten years. As I've become more and more interested in the simplest, most energy and humanly friendly ways of baking sourdough bread, I have actually been completely re inventing for myself the art of baking. according to a bunch of ideas that have I been gradually developing over many years.
There are a collection of stories on this site which document my own journey from one man show, to mini corporation, and back to a one man show again. The story still has a number of chapters to upload - those of you who have been followers of this website will know at least a fair amount of the story. Trust me, truth is stranger than fiction, and these little tales will illustrate this point well, I think - so stay tuned for them to gradually appear.
In the meantime, allow me to illuminate my latest little adventure. It has a bunch of features which have been inherited from my own baking journey - but it also examines some other factors which have influenced our national bread and bakery culture through our amazingly long baking history in Australia.
For quite a few years now, I have taught and baked from the Hunter Valley region of NSW. By my very imprecise calculations, thousands of people have attended workshops at various Hunter and Newcastle locations over this past decade. I know there are thousands more of you spread all around the country, wanting to learn the art of sourdough. Many of you have been asking me to come to where you are, as it's just too difficult to come to me.
So that's what I've decided to do. This year, starting in June, I'm heading South, via the coast at first, and then through regional NSW and Victoria. Then I turn right, and head through SA, across the Nullabor, and along the southern coast until I hit Perth. From there, I'm heading up to the goldfields areas, and finally back across the Nullabor once more. I will then head back through the central west of NSW.
The semi complete list of dates can be found here.
Running breadmaking workshops isn't as simple as bringing along a bag of flour, a bucket of water and some sort of oven - though these things are definitely part of it. I have decided to do this series of workshops completely off the grid - I want to see if it can be done, first of all, and I also want to be able to be as self sufficient in my setup as I can be. So I'm in the process of designing and building a special teaching trailer which has the ability to provide the complete baking experience without a lot of fuss. So far, the only thing I will need on site is a water supply (it's way too heavy to carry water, and besides, if I bring my own water, we won't be able to find out how your local water behaves in dough).
On board will be the tools of my trade, with a few modifications to allow for simplicity and flexibility while I'm traveling. Instead of a mixer, which I usually use to make bulk dough for the workshops, I will be utilising a thing called a baker's trough, which is the way bakers made dough for centuries before mixers were available. I will be keeping things like starters and ripening dough cool using my own take on a 'Coolgardie Safe', which will be a type of low tech evaporative cooler. In addition, I will have a Bush Oven, which is a dismantleable lightweight steel oven which can run on any type of solid fuel - wood, charcoal, briquettes etc. I will have hot water heated by the sun (not a solar panel in sight).
I'm calling the new trailer the Bush Bakery Mk II, and along these lines, the series of workshops have been called the Bush Baking Workshops. They will focus on making bread with simple tools. Effectively, we will be using techniques and technologies from a hundred years ago. The best part is that you can use the same methods you will see in action first hand to make bread at home!
If you would like to attend a workshop, you can see where they will be held, and when, right here. Dates and venues are being filled in at the moment - but every workshop where a booking has been made will go ahead, no matter what. Looking forwar to seeing you soon, wherever you are!